The Doula Diet: 5 Nutrition Go-To’s for the 24-hour Doula
Posted on February 28th, 2018
Roll over, check your phone, attempt to rest – REPEAT. Being involved in the support and assistance of bringing an infant into this world is kind of BIG deal. Offering to be a client’s advocate, coach, support and encouragement is all-encompassing and all-demanding yet inspiring and exhilarating.
Doulas and birth supporters/practitioners are strong and admirable, and, some may argue that they carry magic in their pockets. The fact of the matter is, you’re still human. Another fact: you need to eat! So what does your doula diet look like?
Although, being a doula allows you the ability to offer that educated hand and experienced guidance many clients seek, you’re still vulnerable and breakable. You know what best support you have to offer the expecting client, but what support do you require? What helps you get through those sleepless nights while tending to your children, running your business and still being that amazing doula that you are?
I am no doula. What kind of guidance can I give to help you best and effectively follow this entrepreneurial path you’ve chosen?
I want to help you focus on YOU. Put your client aside for a moment, and place yourself as your one and only priority.
Who Am I?
I am a Nutritionist. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food from the University of Alberta in 2009 and have been working in various areas of health care ever since. I have an extensive background in clinical care and personal consulting and am extremely passionate about pre and postnatal nutrition.
Recently, I got myself tangled up with a couple of doulas – whoop whoop. Not only have they become very close friends of mine, I have been fortunate enough to provide combined nutrition services with their doula expertise. These amazing ladies have not only shown me the extremely effective role you can play in a client’s birth, but how draining your job can really be. And it’s not only your job that’s exhausting, it’s finding that balance between work AND life that can make it so difficult.
What Advice Do I Have to Offer?
You, as a doula, are a wellness advocate, supporter and encourager. You have some BIG shoes to fill, and you do it well. Like, really well!
You give it your all to ensure another family has the best birth experience possible. There are sleepless nights. There are frantic texts and phone calls. Your energy is drained without even realizing it then you run on empty to do what you do best. You do EVERYTHING in your power to ensure your clients are as prepared as possible for the delivery and that it carries out as close as possible to how they had envisioned it.
But how about you? How can you prepare yourself for your client’s delivery? Well, the most obvious answer is: your diet. Ok fiiiine, diet is the most obvious answer to me and of course it is! I’m going to give you my most favourite tips right now to make sure you can put the best fuel into your body so you can lessen the effects of that “birth hangover”.
Here are my 5 Nutritional Doula Hacks aka The Doula Diet
During a labour you are usually too busy to even think about drinking water. Without even realizing it, you may be closely approaching that point of dehydration. Or, you may already be there. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t even get enough water on a good day, and when distracted, this is even more likely. Each of us should aim to drink 9 cups of water (female) and 12 cups of water (male) in a 24-hour period. This daily target can be a hard one to hit. Especially if you’re not keeping up with it consistently throughout the day!
Why should you ensure you’re drinking enough water during a labour?
Of course, the obvious reason, for your overall health. Proper hydration helps to maintain regular cellular and system functioning so our body can operate at peak performance. That’s a given.
But … did you know that water consumption can actually increase energy as well? Our brain is predominantly made of water, so, to maximize concentration, alertness and mental acuity, we must regularly hydrate to keep ourselves as crisp and clear as possible. These abilities and skills can be critical as you guide your client through their delivery and are not something you want to compromise.
Invest in a good stainless steel or glass water bottle that holds at least 1L of fluids and contains all BPA-free lids/seals. Ditch the plastic. Fruit and herbs can be a great way to add flavour to your water while adding a few extra vitamins and minerals as well. Although not adding any significant source of calories, it can be amazing how much energy a bit a natural flavour can bring on.
Check out some delicious and unique infused-water recipes that I love from Shape Magazine:
When we hear the word ‘sugar,’ many of us immediately think of candy. Sorry, I wish I could tell you there’s a magical nutrient hidden in a pack of Twizzlers but, let’s get real! Fortunately, there are benefits to sugar but we are going to focus on the healthy sources and how they can improve your presence during a labour.
So…What are healthy sugar sources?
Sugar is a complex topic. Yes, sugar intake can increase your risk for diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, etc. However, sugar is also necessary (and essential to our health) when consuming it from the right sources in appropriate quantities. We’re not talking sweets and treats. We’re talking natural sugars that are produced by our very generous mother nature.
What types of sugar should you be consuming and why?
Our brain is an obligatory glucose-user. This means it requires sugar to function and survive. And, for obvious reasons, we want to ensure we keep that main circuit board of ours running up to snuff! If you’re feeling lethargic, groggy or a little foggy, you may just need a quick sugar fix. The question is, where should we get these sugars from. What is our best, most nutritionally-dense and healthy source of sugar? As a busy Doula, you may like to always have a sugary treat ready for when you hit that wall or need a little extra oomph. But what should you choose?
Fresh fruit (choose local, organic and seasonal fruit whenever possible): Fruit contains sugars that are easily accessible and digestible by our body and are also loaded with essential energy-boosting nutrients. Fruit is nutritionally-dense and is going to provide you with not only vitamins and minerals, but water as well.
Canned Fruit: Canned fruit cups can be a good alternative to fresh fruit when necessary or if perishable food just won’t work for you. Just be conscious of those that are packed in syrup rather than water as they contain additional, unnecessary sugar. Also avoid any artificial colouring (i.e. maraschino cherries) and added sugar.
Dried Fruit: The consensus tends to be that dried fruit contains a lot of sugar. And the truth is, it does! Fruit is abundant in natural sugars so, once you dehydrate it (suck all the water out), its sugar source concentrates. Is that a bad thing? No. Unless you decide to eat an entire bag of dried mango, you’re still getting the natural fruit nutrients PLUS its naturally present sugars. Just be aware of portion size. A dried apple chip is much smaller than a slice of apple so, naturally, we think we need to eat more. If we actually ate what was equivalent to an entire apple (which is around 5 dried apple rounds), there is absolutely no problem with the sugar content you have just consumed.
Honey: Honey is a pure, natural form of sugar and is great for a quick pick-me-up. Unlike fruit, honey is straight, concentrated sugar, so makes its way to the brain much faster. Honey is also high in antioxidants which helps to maintain healthy cells in our body and defend against cancer, etc. You’re getting two-for-one with this sugar choice!
Lots of natural and health food stores will carry little honey pixie sticks (look at the check-out counter). This is an easy and convenient way to store and carry honey as these little sticks don’t need to be refrigerated and have a pretty decent shelf life. If they start to crystallize, get yourself some new ones. Otherwise you’re good to go!
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains are full of fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. The fibre and healthy fats help to slow digestion which is why whole grains tend to keep us feeling full longer. They’ve also got some plant-based protein in there to help keep your hunger at bay. Whole grain foods are great to grab when you’re having a hard time fitting in a bite to eat while your services are needed elsewhere!
Homemade Granola Bars: I know, I know. GROAN! More work?! Throw on a favourite TV show or podcast or get your little ones to help you! They really don’t take long to prepare, I promise and you can double or triple the recipe so that you can keep your freezer stocked with homemade granola bars. They’re quick and easy to grab and a great wholesome snack when you’re running low. I LOVE these ones from the Unconventional Baker! Completely satisfying and gluten-free/vegan as well.
Granola: If you’re not quite sure if your homemade granola bar is going to hold up in your bag, its closest cousin will – granola. Granola is basically like a dehydrated granola bar and can be adapted to absolutely any flavour you’d like! It’s easy to make at home to avoid the extra fat and sugar typically found in store-bought granola and will keep well in an air-tight container in your cupboard for a few weeks. This is a great recipe from Oh She Glows.
*FYI you can sub maple syrup for the brown rice syrup the recipe calls for
Protein is an important dietary component for each and every one of us. It’s got many different roles in the body but, relatively speaking, is a potent energy source. It’s a slow-release energy system that lasts for a longer period of time.
For doulas, unfortunately, protein can be easily forgotten as it’s not always a quick food item you can just grab on the fly. Because you may miss a snack or a meal here or there as you go through the day/night with your client, the best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to get as close to a complete protein as possible. And, unfortunately, not every protein source is just that.
What is a complete protein and why is it important?
Simply put, a complete protein is one that contains each of the essential building blocks needed for us to reap the full benefit of what we’ve just eaten. This is going to fuel you with the greatest amount of energy to help you sustain the physical and mental demands of your job, allow you to function beyond means and be the super hero that you are!
Unfortunately, these complete proteins tend to come from the ‘meat’ family and tossing a steak in your doula bag is just not feasible. For this reason, foods that tend to be an easy, quick-grab option are incomplete protein items. This means we need to get creative in our snack combos to get as close to a complete protein as possible!
To build a complete protein in your bag is a bit more complicated than it sounds. To make a complete protein you can either combine a legume (beans/lentils/peanuts) with a grain OR a legume with nuts and seeds.
Peanut butter sandwich: Although simple, a peanut butter sandwich combines both a legume and a grain. It’s not something you can really make ahead and leave in your purse but at least it’s ok if it’s not refrigerated and is pretty quick to put together. Add some honey and you’ve got a seriously energy-boosting foo
Hummus & crackers: If you’ve got the time, make a big batch of hummus, pre-portion individual servings and freeze. When you need to run, just grab one and toss it into your bag. Because it’s already frozen, don’t worry about refrigerating. Just let it thaw at room temperature and eat when you need it.
DIY trail mix: Head over to bulk barn and go wild! The only rule is you’ve got to be sure you include a legume, a nut and a seed. The nut and seed part are easy, but there aren’t many options for dried legumes. Dried soya beans and chickpeas are usually available, then plump up your mix with whatever nuts, seeds and additional add-ins you fancy.
Probiotics are foods, drinks or supplements we can consume to help maintain and grow the probiotic bacteria that lives in our gut. Yes, we have bacteria living in our gut. And yes, they’re supposed to be there. We all have them and some professionals actually consider them our ‘2nd brain.’ They eat and eliminate just as living creatures that roam the earth, yet, their earth is our body and we are their host.
Why are probiotics important for you?
By adding probiotics to our daily routine, we can ensure we are encouraging these probiotic bacteria to be strong and plentiful. We want to keep these gut bugs comfortable and happy because they are like vitamin-C on steroids. They act as our first line of immune defence and are very involved in keeping our health in tip-top shape. Some of the viruses and bacteria we come into contact with each and every day have the intent of leaving us with a cold, the flu, food poisoning or worse. If our gut bacteria army is ready for action, they’ll help make sure you make it to that delivery with your next client and not get laid up on the couch!
OUR RECOMMENDATION – Consume probiotics daily. No questions asked!
Eat probiotic-rich foods: The natural fermentation of certain types of food creates probiotics during the process. By eating these foods, you consume those existing good bacteria and support and improve your immune-fighting powerhouse gut bug team. These foods include:
- pickles (fermented)
- kefir (milk or water)
- sauerkraut (fermented)
Supplementation: If you can’t see any of these foods fitting into your daily meal choices OR you’re willing to eat some of them but not daily, grab yourself a probiotic supplement. These will be in the refrigerated section of your grocery or health food store and come in capsule or powder form.
So now what? You’ve got your doula bag stocked and…
Continue to go about and do your thing, however, be sure you take the time to prepare yourself for your upcoming deliveries so you are in the optimal state to care for your client. REMEMBER: always put your oxygen mask on first. Do YOU first. To be able to be involved in the birth of a child and know you’ve done everything you can for your client because you’ve also taken care of yourself is empowering, self-motivating and smart. You can’t do the best for others unless you’ve done the best for yourself first.
Nourish yourself so you can enrich the life of others.
So… what doula diet is in your doula bag?! We want to know!
Demii is a mom of three kids under the age of 6 so life is … busy. Between school, play dates, tantrums and snacks Demii loves to sit down for ‘me’ time to touch base with clients, work on nutrition programs and binge watch Jane the Virgin. After a recent move from BC to Ontario, their family has truly enjoyed exploring all the new, beautiful opportunities this province has to offer. Now that life isn’t being lived out of boxes, Demii has settled back into her nutrition consulting business and will have a commercial office space to dedicate and commit time and energy to the passion that she calls ‘work’.